FORDHAM HEIGHTS, the Bronx (PIX11) — In response to some complaints from people displaced by a fatal fire in the Bronx, who said that the city could be doing more to help them — and do so more quickly — Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson made an announcement late Friday afternoon.
“Each household will receive a debit card worth $2,250, for every single household, across the board,” she said. “In addition, we’ve been able to secure 125 air purifiers that will be delivered to each household.”
Gibson said that the new contributions were the beginning of a new round of assistance for families affected by the fire that left 17 people dead.
In the days since, she said, the Mayor’s Fund to help families has raised more than $2 million that will go straight to residents over time.
She also said that she and other local leaders are working with landlords to relocate residents, at no cost to them, and that that could take another week or more.
Jeanette Torres, who’d been displaced from her 12th floor apartment, was skeptical, to say the least.
“I’m not confident at all,” she said, adding that she’s been staying at a hotel nearby, along with other residents.
The Red Cross and the city have guaranteed them lodging there through Jan. 24, but Torres said that she’s not convinced that the city will be able to provide for her and her family after that, despite the city’s assurances.
Congressman Ritchie Torres, who represents the district in Washington, said on Friday that he’s introducing legislation specifically meant to prevent fires like the one that took place last Sunday.
Fire investigators have said that it began with a space heater that ignited after being left on for an extended period of time.
“There are no mandatory standards that govern the manufacture of space heaters,” he said, as he unveiled a bill proposal he’s putting before Congress. “A space heater that shuts off automatically should be the rule, rather than the exception.”
That would be the requirement in his new bill. It’s joining three others that he said he’s writing, and has gotten assurances from committee chairs in Congress about them getting thorough hearings, he said.
The other bills would require self-closing doors in any building that receives federal funding, such as housing vouchers. Another measure would require heat sensors in buildings to ensure that the structures are warm enough at all times to reduce the use of space heaters.
Torres’s other legislation would require that all housing inspection results be made public. They currently are not, Torres said.
His news conference came a couple of hours before Mayor Eric Adams came back to the neighborhood, early Friday afternoon. He attended prayers at Ar-Rahama Mosque, the local house of worship where 15 of the people who passed away were members. All of the 15 who perished had ties to Gambia, in West Africa.
The mayor made clear that he understood that bond.
“Your city understands what you’re going through,” he said in comments outside of the mosque, where he’d just given a five-minute statement of support. “They all know I just came back from Africa, so they know, this is our brother.”
Haji Dukuray, the uncle of Haja Dukerey, a woman who lost her life in the fire along with her husband and their three children, said that the mayor’s visit was vital to the community.
“As someone who lost five members of my family,” Dukuray said, “the mayor’s visit means so much to me. This is what makes us strong as a family.”
He’ll say his final farewells to his loved ones at a funeral for 15 fire victims on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. at the Bronx Islamic Cultural Center, on 166th Street. It had burned down in 2009.
Over more than a decade, community members raised funds for it to be rebuilt. It reopened last October, and its first major event will be Sunday’s funeral.
Imam Musa Kabba, the leader of the Gambian Muslim community in the Bronx, said that having the funeral there is a symbol for the city, and beyond.
“It shows there’s hope,” he said.